Undergraduate Research

Lucas Draper ’23

OUR Featured Researcher: Lucas Draper ’23

Lucas Draper
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Lucas Draper (he/him) is majoring in computer science and theater. He conducts research under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Computer Science Roberto Hoyle. His project is titled “Digital Contact Tracing: Examining the Effects of Understanding and Release Organization on Public Trust.”

Please describe your project:

Digital contact tracing was the new age approach to fighting the spread of COVID19. This research found no direct correlation between an individual’s understanding of the ways these applications protect the user’s privacy and their willingness to trust the application. It also found that whether the application was released by a governmental organization or private company (such as Google-Apple) also had no significant impact on a person’s trust of the application.

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

This research found there was no significant relationship between release organization or understanding of the privacy protection methods and the amount a user was willing to trust a contact tracing application. There were also no demographic groups whose trust or distrust of the application was notably significant. 

Why is your research important?

Contact tracing is one of the best ways to combat the spread of a global pandemic in a world where isolating in a way that would completely prevent the spread of said virus is virtually impossible. Given participation in the process is optional, this research aims to discern what causes people to contribute or refuse to contribute to the collective effort.  

What does the process of doing your research look like?

This research began with two iterations of a comprehension survey to establish whether the explanation I had generated of how the privacy protection methods work was able to be understood by the general population. After this was set, a survey of 101 American adults was run, establishing their demographic information and their willingness to trust their given application. The participants were broken into four groups, one group received the explanation and were told the application was released by Google-Apple, another did not receive the explanation and were told the app was released by Google-Apple, another received the explanation and were told the app was released by the federal government, and the last group did not receive the explanation and were told the app was released by the federal government. I then processed this data using various statistical analyses in R. 

What knowledge has your research contributed to your field?   

This research concludes that the reason people do not trust digital contact tracing applications is not their understanding of how it works internally to keep their data safe, nor who has access to the information. Although this is not a conclusive discovery of what does impact a user's trust, it reduces the certainty of two potential impacting factors. 

In what ways have you showcased your research thus far?

I have done my honors presentation for the Computer Science faculty. 

How did you get involved in research? What drove you to seek out research experiences in college? 

I got involved in research by reaching out to Professor Hoyle since he had an interest in privacy and he seemed to be doing interesting research. This was in the height of COVID and I was interested in exploring digital contact tracing applications, so we first partnered with Professor Prasad at Skidmore College who were researching digital vaccine passports, which I then branched off to create my own research project. 

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

I really enjoy the data analysis part and exploring with R the various statistical models.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

Professor Hoyle was very patient with me about my lack of understanding about statistical analysis and he was able to provide me with a lot of different resources to help me better understand the statistical models I could use and what the results it gave me meant. 

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?   

I would say that I am now more prepared for a career in computer science because this research opens up opportunities for me to seek work in research. As I have a completed project, I can use this paper as evidence for my ability to conduct research ethically and successfully.  

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field? 

Talk to a faculty member that you like, and find out what their area of research is. If it’s something you find interesting as well, that’s awesome and see if you can get involved. If it’s not, ask them if someone is researching a topic you are interested in, and they can point you in the right direction. Everyone is really friendly and willing to have student researchers.